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Beer Reviews

Dank Imperial Red Ale

O'so Brewing Co.
Plover, WI
USA
http://www.osobrewing.com

Style: American Strong Ale
ABV: 9.0%

Nigel’s Rating:
one beerone beerone beerone beerone beer   (Outstanding within its style.)


Comments:
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Let’s begin celebrating Plover, Wisconsin’s O’so Brewing Company’s first anniversary by reminiscing about our many encounters over the past year:

(Cue sound of crickets chirping …)

Excellent. With that out of the way, let’s review their First Anniversary brew, Dank Imperial Red, which, as you may have guessed, is my first brew from them period. I believe I recall seeing O’so at a couple of brew fests in the past year or so, though I may have been hallucinating and/or drunk at the time. I was aware of their existence, but until very recently, I had never actually seen retail evidence of them. I don’t make it to Plover much these days since I typically don’t trust a town named after a shore bird, so I have yet to scout out the brewery.

For those of you interested, Plover is a small town just south of Stevens Point in the central part of the state, where the number of craft breweries has been rapidly increasing. Outside of the long-standing “giant” of the region, Point Brewing Co., there’s James Page in Stevens Point (a crappy brewery in my opinion), Pangea Beer Co. in Wisconsin Rapids (again, not impressive and actually brewed in Black River Falls by Sand Creek), and the only regional gem thus far, Amherst’s Central Waters. It would be nice if O’so could come close to the quality of Central Waters, thus preventing central Wisconsin from developing the reputation of having a bunch of craft breweries that for the most part suck.

Dank is described as an “imperial red ale,” which, in Nigel’s book, falls into the category of American strong ale. And yes, Nigel appreciates a good pun, so I’m kind of diggin’ the name, as lame as that may be. Through no fault of their own, Nigel is putting O’so on the hot seat with the first review. Rather than starting with a standard release, like the Night Train Porter that’s sitting in storage, I’m going all out with a 9 percent ABV special release monster, which means I’m not HOPING to be impressed, I EXPECT to be impressed. Never let it be said that Nigel is a nice guy.

Dank pours, uh … dankly? Scratch that; Merriam Webster’s defines dank as “unpleasantly moist or wet,” so it’s unfair to label this particular moisture unpleasant at this early juncture. On the contrary, Dank has a pleasant pour that reveals a mild tan head of just under an inch, which quickly dissipates into a slight sticky lacing throughout the drink. It’s a deep copper/mahogany color with quite a bit of sedimentation, making it picturesque in the glass rather than living up to its name.

The aroma is surprising and powerful. HUGE amounts of dark fruit and sugar pummel the nostrils immediately upon the pour, a shock to anyone thinking this is a standard red ale. Initial notes of caramel, toffee, and molasses give Dank a massive sugary backbone, aided by the fact that it’s aged in “wood” (that’s the official description from O’so … not sure what type of wood or storage that would be). Notes of vanilla, a touch of hops, and good amounts of dark fruit (fig, black cherry, and raisin), make Dank an aromatic treat that gives this brew great promise. I couldn’t detect any hint of the 9 percent ABV in the aroma.

The taste is excellent, which has me cautiously optimistic that we have a new brewery on our hands that has the right formula. Initial sweet, sugary notes of caramel, toffee, molasses, and dark brown sugar are joined by a hint of bourbon, making me think the “wood” is bourbon barrel aging (it has all the aromatic and flavor characteristics you’d expect from that process). Dark fruit provides a solid backbone and plays well with the somewhat syrupy initial flavors, with black cherry and fig giving Dank a different kind of sweetness. A mild hop profile is hidden in the very back, as is a pleasant hint of vanilla and a surprising touch of roasted malt that comes through as the beer warms. All in all, it’s a very complex strong ale, one that can curl the tongue and please the nostrils, and gives you the warming sensation you’d expect for the style. The many elements in the flavor and aroma play well together, and O’so deserves major credit for pulling off a rather difficult brew so brilliantly. Medium to full bodied and very smooth on the palate, Dank will stick with you for awhile thanks to its sugary thickness.

I’m going with a four mug rating rather than a five, but it’s close. O’so has nothing to be ashamed of, but I judge my strong ales much like my barley wines and imperial IPAs; that is to say, I’m VERY picky. While extremely good, in my opinion Dank falls just short of reaching the elite, but is a fantastic first attempt by a new brewery. I’m looking forward to trying more selections from O’so (in Spanish “oso” means “bear” … just wanted to throw that in), and they have a pretty tough act to follow.

Cheers!

Reviewed by Nigel Tanner on March 25, 2009.
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